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Mr. Corbyn: Those women gave 30 years to the national health service. They have shown a greater commitment to the national health service than the Minister and his Government have ever shown. He should intervene in the dispute to ensure justice for the women rather than raising what are, in effect, red herrings surrounding the serious issue of the disgraceful treatment of the employees concerned.

Mr. Horam: Interfering with the proper treatment of health service patients is not to be taken lightly. I am disappointed by the hon. Gentleman's attitude.

The fact is that Pall Mall took over and ACAS brokered an agreement which was agreed to by Unison, of which the hon. Gentleman is a member, but the workers in question did not choose to accept it, for whatever reasons. I am not commenting on those reasons; the workers obviously feel that they have justice on their side. Others may take a different view. Those are the facts of the matter. I hope that, when the industrial tribunal looks at the case, it will take all aspects into account and will come to a reasonable conclusion. That is the right and proper thing to do and I am sure that that will be done.

In the mean time, Pall Mall continues to fulfil all its contract requirements to Hillingdon hospital. It is regrettable that a few of Pall Mall's workers came to be in dispute with the company and, as I have said, it is now for the industrial tribunal to consider the rights and wrongs of the case.

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The dispute is not a matter for the health service or for me. There is no suggestion that Hillingdon hospital has not acted properly at all times. On the issue of market testing, which the hon. Gentleman raised more generally, the Government do not intend to change a policy that has saved the national health service more than £1 billion. Market testing of national health service support services is not about contracting out services; it is aimed at producing more cost-effective services and better value for money from whatever source. That is precisely what has been achieved at Hillingdon and countless other hospitals. We certainly intend to continue what is an extremely sensible policy for the health of the nation.

Unitary Development Plan (Hillingdon)

1.29 pm

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): I have two reasons to be grateful for the opportunity to discuss the proposed changes by Hillingdon borough council to the draft unitary development plan. First, the new planning proposals set out by the borough council cause the most acute local concern I have ever experienced in the 17 years that I have represented Ruislip-Northwood. Secondly, they raise aspects of environmental and housing policy that are of national significance, as they demonstrate the need to encourage the private rented sector, rather than relying on housing association developments subsidised by the taxpayer.

My constituency is largely residential, with some light industry at its southernmost extremity. Most people commute to London by tube or train, or travel by car to work at Heathrow airport or Stockley park or along the A4-M4 and A40-M40 corridors. Unemployment is the lowest of any Greater London constituency and, despite constant developmental pressures, limited school places and traffic congestion, Ruislip-Northwood is a pleasant place to live, to raise a family and to retire. It has excellent schools, good recreational facilities and playing fields and a high proportion of owner-occupied homes. In short, it comprises a harmonious blend of residential districts and public open space, underpinned with carefully designated, well preserved, green chain and metropolitan green belt areas.

That crucial harmony and balance have been deliberately put at risk by the Labour borough council's proposed changes to the UDP. When the plans became public in late July, proposing social housing development on up to 50 acres of green chain land, I immediately wrote to the leader of the Labour borough council, Councillor Chris Rogers, to protest that the wholesale social housing developments which were being promoted by the socialist borough council put at risk the quality of life of my constituents, would damage the environment irreparably and would be fiercely resisted by local residents.

It is worth quoting my letter verbatim, as it summarises the arguments clearly--not one of which was addressed by the Labour council leader in his curt reply:


Hon. Members will agree that maintaining the value of my constituents' homes, retaining playing fields and recreation grounds for their children and designated public open spaces in a green chain of protected areas for people to walk, exercise their dogs and breathe freely when so much of their daily lives is spent strap-hanging on the underground travelling to and from work and enduring endless traffic jams, noise from aircraft and motorways, are worthy planning priorities for any responsible outer London borough.

Under the heading "Urbanisation of Ruislip-Northwood", I wrote as follows:


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    The Field End Road and Sidmouth Drive recreation grounds are much appreciated by local people. Children have all too few areas on which to play and that the Council should deliberately curtail recreation space for children will be much resented and rightly, bitterly contested.


    Likewise the St. Vincent's Hospital site is a particularly beautiful semi secluded area on the edge of Haste Hill which an aesthetically sensitive council responsible to the feelings of local people would wish to preserve.


    It is clear that the Council has its own agenda to put as much open space as possible under concrete and brick. I believe my constituents will contest these thoroughly undesirable plans implacably and that they will organise to save our green fields from the clutches of inappropriate Council-sponsored developments.


    Coming on top of your publicly quoted observations in favour of a Warner Bros Theme Park on green belt land in Uxbridge"--

in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Sir M. Shersby), who is here supporting me and is president of the Metropolitan London Green Belt Council--


    "it is clear that preserving the quality of life for local residents from undesirable urbanisation does not feature as a policy of Hillingdon Borough Council.


    A little bit of imagination and sensitivity to local feelings could preserve an attractive environment for generations to come. The Council clearly prefers to promote an impersonal urban sprawl. I give you notice that it will be fiercely resisted."

It is small wonder that local people have been incensed. They see elected Labour councillors, who should be the custodians of the local environment and quality of life, deliberately setting their face against them. The civic centre has been inundated with thousands of objections. Public meetings have been held on Field End recreation ground and Sidmouth drive playing fields, and protest handbills are displayed in countless windows nearby.

Local Members, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) who sent a message of support and has done much locally, and my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks), who is in his place, have been strenuous in their opposition, as have local residents' associations such as south Ruislip residents association in my constituency and Roxbourne residents association in Harrow, West. The Conservative councillors' group on Hillingdon borough council and responsible conservation groups, such as the Hillingdon group of the London Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Earth and the Sports Council have all protested in meticulous detail, itemising the environmental damage that would ensue from the plans.

Sir Michael Shersby (Uxbridge): I fully support what my hon. Friend has said today. Does he agree that the general thrust of the modifications should concern the House and the Minister--that the plan seeks to


It takes no account of the need for other varieties of housing in the borough and is putting at risk green belt sites, green chain sites and other land locally.

The local authority has argued that the council has revised housing allocation, and is planning a 10 per cent. increase. That information came from the London Planning Advisory Committee. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister will say a word or two about that.

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It has also been argued by council officers that the inspector considering the original draft development plan made a comment to the effect that Hillingdon should be more proactive in the provision of such housing. I challenged them to show me where those words appeared. They do not appear anywhere; they are an interpretation by the council's officers, as was admitted to me at a recent meeting.


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